The fact is we need to either ask the office manager, the plan administrator, the network provider, or the doctor how much it is for a particular health service. The reason is that prices for healthcare services are not easily accessible. They are difficult to compute, assess and manage. For this reason, we as consumers do not feel empowered to make good decisions with respect to our healthcare. The cards are stacked against us.
In recent times, it has come to light that many hospitals and providers charge special lower rates for services rendered to policy-holders of large insurance companies. Whereas, uninsured patients are charged the highest rates for the same services rendered. In addition, it is practically impossible to track and manage these costs. This is unfair and unjust.
Healthcare is not a transparent industry that caters to consumers. Most other industries that service consumers are focused on market conditions that drive their businesses. This means that promoting their prices is important. Imagine going to a gas station and not knowing how much they were charging for unleaded gasoline! Imagine attending a spa and just not knowing the cost of the services, but also later receiving the final bill that would be impossible to understand and that it would include items and services that you did not feel you received! There are not many businesses that could survive with this strategy.
As consumers, we are very disconnected from the healthcare services and costs that we receive. This is not a good model that entices good consumerism. Due to the fact that we are removed from the process of acting like a consumer, it is then easier to understand why we are not as focused on the costs. Yet, we complain and scream at our rising health insurance premiums. The truth is that it is not entirely our fault. We want to be better consumers, but the system doesn’t work to assist us. It is common practice to keep prices confusing to consumers and not to promote them.
All of us understand that healthcare is complex and includes many, many different goods and services, but it is definitely not as difficult as it is represented. American consumers are smart, intelligent, and able to make decisions with respect to their healthcare while also assessing a provider’s economic value for their goods and services. It is paramount that consumers are brought back into the healthcare model; they will drive up competition and quality service.
Like most of every other industry in the United States, pricing is an important gauge for goods and services. It is not acceptable that the healthcare industry does not provide its prices for goods and services to the users of those goods and services on a more formal and easier basis. As our healthcare industry matures, this will be a reform change that will come to the front of issues being raised.
As more and more health insurance plan designs incorporate consumer risk through high-deductible and health savings accounts, consumers will demand more transparency from their providers. It is only fair; it is only the right thing to do. There is no need to keep prices and costs behind locked doors where only a select group has readable access.
One may ask why government run businesses do not work, and they only need to look at our Medicare and Medicaid programs. In these cases, the consumer again has been removed from the equation therefore there are no checks and balances to guide the ship.